Foodborne disease outbreak investigations identify foods responsible for illnesses. However, it is not known the degree to which foods implicated in outbreaks reflect the distribution of food consumption in the U.S. population or the risk associated with their consumption. We compared the distribution of 24 categories of foods implicated in outbreaks with the distribution of foods consumed by the U.S. population. Beef, chicken, eggs, fish, herbs, mollusks, pork, sprouts, seeded vegetables, and turkey were implicated in outbreaks significantly more often than expected based on the frequency of their consumption by the general population, suggesting a higher risk of contamination or mishandling from foods in these categories than from foods in other categories. In contrast, pasteurized dairy, fruits, grains and beans, oils and sugars, and root and underground vegetables were less frequently implicated in outbreaks than their frequency of consumption by the general population, suggesting a lower health risk associated with these food categories.

  • The distributions of foods consumed and of foods implicated in outbreaks differ.

  • Specific food categories are more or less likely to cause outbreaks.

  • These findings may assist with food safety interventions and recommendations.

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